How to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer, also known as CRC, is cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. Sometimes this cancer is referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where the cancer first develops. Although colon cancer is a slow-growing cancer with a five-year survival rate of 92% if discovered at its earliest stage, it is still the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

The death toll is so high because many don’t get tested for colon cancer when they should. In fact, 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with screening.

Regular colorectal cancer screening is the most effective way to prevent the disease from developing or advancing. There are several screening options, but a colonoscopy is considered the gold standard because it not only tests for cancer, but can also allow for the removal of polyps, a precursor to cancer, during the procedure.

What to know about colorectal cancer screening

The American Cancer Society recently changed their guidelines for colorectal cancer screening recommendations. They previously recommend that people of average risk start getting screened regularly at age 50, but have lowered the age to 45 because of the recent increase in younger people developing CRC.

If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, you should talk to your doctor about the right screening schedule for you.

There are several screening options available. You can speak with one of the experienced surgeons at Rockwall Surgical Specialists about your health history, your family history, your preferences and your concerns to determine the best option for you. But clearly, the best one is the one you get regularly. Options include:

For all screening tests other than the colonoscopy, if your results reveal an abnormality, you’ll need a colonoscopy to confirm the diagnosis and possibly remove the cancerous or precancerous growth.

How to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer

In addition to regular cancer screenings, you can make changes to your lifestyle that will reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, and many other cancers as well. These lifestyle changes include:

Lose weight if you’re overweight

Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help you lose weight, which can lower your risk of cancer, and other health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. Carrying around excess weight, especially in your belly, has been linked to a higher risk for colorectal cancer.

Limit red and processed meats

Studies have linked an increased risk of colorectal cancer and eating red and processed meats, like bacon and sausages. Try to swap out red meat with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to minimize your colorectal cancer risk and optimize your overall health.

Exercise regularly

Even just moderate exercise like walking or biking can help lower your risk for colorectal cancer. However, vigorous exercise may reduce your risk even more. One study found that the most physically active people lowered their colon cancer risk 24% more than the least active people.  

Limit alcohol consumption

If you limit yourself to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, you can lower your cancer risk and still enjoy wine with dinner. Excess alcohol consumption increases your risk of colorectal cancer, especially for men.

Quit smoking or don’t start

If you smoke, stop as soon as possible. Smoking increases your risk for a whole host of cancers and chronic health conditions, including colon, lung, and pancreas cancer -- to name just a few reasons to kick this toxic habit. One study found that women who smoke are about 20% more likely to get cancer than non-smokers.

Call Rockwall Surgical Specialists, or make an appointment online to find out more about colorectal cancer prevention.

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